Occupation: Dog Sled Guide
Residence: Kittila, Finland
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/14/18
Primary Language: Finnish
Other Language(s): English
The following is a recorded observation centering on a local guide’s preparation of a lunch area/cooking of said lunch while on a weeklong dog sledding excursion in the northern Finnish wilderness, an area known as Lapland.
To provide context, in the late winter months of Lapland, the snow can reach depths of up to five feet, unable to melt and having compiled for many months before. It is not uncommon anywhere in this area that one can take a single step off of a packed, stable path and immediately sink waist deep into the snow.
After anchoring our dog sleds and unboxing containers of food, the guide took four sizable branches from a nearby shrub and sharpened a single end of each branch to a point with his knife.
These four branches were left to the side as the guide then stepped into the deep snow and began to dig an eating area with his hands. This proceeded for the better part of twenty minutes. When finished, the hole was about eight feet across and four feet deep. Considerably flat on the bottom as to allow for a fire, the sloped sides of the hole allowed for comfortable seating at a safe distance from any burning wood.
Firewood kindling was then gathered from the adjacent birch forest from whatever available wood could be found. Primary logs, previously cut at the cabin we had left that morning, were then assembled into a square, three-tiered stack. Using the kindling to help foster the ignition of the larger logs, the guide sparked the blunt metallic end of his knife against a flint and subsequently lit the fire.
The two of us then took the sharpened sticks and skewered sausages onto the pointed ends, roasting them over the fire until ready to eat.
After the course of eating, the heat of the fire had allowed the wood to sink considerably into the snow, allowing any remaining burning logs to be covered with ease with only a kick of snow.
What stood out in this entire situation to me is the inherent making use of one’s surroundings for the sake of providing supplemental comforts alongside necessary functions, such as eating. While it would have been easy enough to simply start the fire on the tightly packed dog sled path, the seating would not be nearly as comfortable as a padded slope against which to lean, made possible by digging the hole. It is also important to note that following 20-30km of captaining a dog sled team over rough terrain make any such indulgences worthwhile expenditures of energy. The cooking of the sausages goes the same way in terms of making use of one’s environment, turning a simple tree branch into a useful tool without which roasting a sausage would not be practically possible. The rooting in practicality and makings of any available comfort reflected to me an overall Lappish spirit of a similar nature.